Archive for January, 2009

Life is a highway

PUCON to ALGARROBO (SANTIAGO)
We’ve made it! That was the feeling climbing over our last hill and looking toward the beaches of the Santiago coast. We’d cycled over 800kms in just 6 days along the Pan American highway to get here.

It was always going to be a tough ride – long, boring days, in the 2m shoulder of the Pan Am, under the hot Chilean sun. Our Andean views had been replaced by endless fields of grain, corn and timber plantations. The logistical challenge became the most engaging aspect of the ride. Where do we get water/food without having to travel too far off the highway? How much rest is enough, so that we don’t burn out, but also cover the required distance per day? Where can we find somewhere safe to camp in increasingly more populated areas?

Life truly became a highway for us. We spent all day on it, then slept beside it at night. The constant vroom, vroom of trucks and buses made us delirious. At one point, both laughing at nothing till we cried in a roadside bus shelter?? For the first time we were all alone too. Cut off from passing cyclists by 4 lanes of traffic and a metal barricade.  Our planned beach break was all we thought about and all that kept us going. It was a trip worth doing though – after all, it’s the boring bits, that make the good bits, so good.

Speaking of good bits, we’ve splashed out and rented a cabana in the beachside resort town of Algarrobo. It’s directly on the coast from Santiago and about 60km south of the very popular Vina del Mar. We’ve earned the break and are spending our days walking along the beach, lazing about in the sun and eating lots of manjar cake (think jam rolly polly, but replace the jam with caramelised condensed milk… very delicious!).

From here, we’ll travel up to “Vina” for a quick look and then head back toward Argentina and our first real Andean pass – Paseo Mendoza (3,800m)!  Wish us luck, I think we’ll need it after all this cake…
Jules & Jess

Leaving the views behind

Leaving the views behind

The PanAm

The PanAm

Life is a highway

Life is a highway

Overdue a shower and shave

Overdue a shower and shave

The only way is up

VOLCAN VILLARICA
So, what should we do on our rest day? How about we climb a volcano?? Ok, sounds like a great idea!!
That’s literally, about as much thought, as either of us gave to climbing 2,847m up Volcan Villarica. To be fair, it’s not a technical climb as such, but for two Aussies more akin to sprinkler bans and 40 degree days anything involving an ice pick is quite technical enough!!
We started out strong, springing over the rocky section under the chairlift like mountain goats. When we hit the ice though, and more specifically when that ice was at 45 degree slope, things got a little shaky. The conversation went something like… “you going ok babe?”, “I’m terrified!”, “yah, me too”.

Our trusty guide led us away from the other climbers and across a newly opened section of the glacier for a “better” experience!  It was a great experience too, but one at the time you weren’t quite sure of. Neither of us could look down or up. The only safe place was staring straight at your feet where it seemed the flattest. We reached the pinnacle of fear at a rest stop on the steep ice. Sitting on our backpacks like toboggans, we watched someone’s loose water bottle slide right past us and over the cliff edge… we couldn’t do anything but gulp and clench our ice picks even tighter.
So after 5hrs, getting to the flattish summit was a welcome relief. The weather was absolutely perfect and allowed us to walk right around the craters edge. Powerfully amazing is the best way to describe.It rumbled and smoked as peered into its open jaws. The sulphar tickled your throat as you looked out at the views and marveled at the world below. You felt uncomfortable yet privileged to be there. It was really quite surreal.
Getting down was a lot more fun than coming up. Covered in gortex from head to toe, we literally slid down on our bums using the ice pick as a break. It was really good fun and actually made you realise just how effective your pick was at stopping you. Something which I’m sure will give us much needed confidence on our next volcan ascent!
It was a brilliant day and without a lie, one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. If you ever get the chance to climb a volcano, even on your rest day – do it!
Jules & Jess

What we climbed

What we climbed

Not so bad at start

Not so bad at start

ok now we´re scared

ok now we´re scared

Why didnt Jules tell me my hat was on crooked!

Why didnt Jules tell me my hat was on crooked!

Not so scared at top

Not so scared at top

Jaws of Villarica

Jaws of Villarica

Smoke and rumbling too

Smoke and rumbling too

The climbers

The climbers

Getting ready to slide down

Getting ready to slide down

Easier on the way down

Easier on the way down

Lakeside

EL BOLSON to PUCON
Hi everyone! We’re now back in Chile at the lakeside resort town of Pucon. For the route followers out there, we travelled from El Bolson through Bariloche, Villa Angostura, San Martin de Los Andes, Junin de los Andes and passed over the Andes at Paseo Mamuil Malal (1253m) to reach here.

Cycling the “Seven Lakes Route”, as it is commonly known, has been fantastic. Yes, its touristy and maybe not as adventurous as down south, but it does mean more towns, lots to see and do and plenty of fresh food!  The weather is quite changeable too, and not always in our favour, which has kept us on our toes. We’ve experienced it all – bright and sunny, howling headwinds and persistent rain – in literally as many days. The views are stunning and more than make up for the randomness though… see the pics below for yourself!

Bariloche is the centre of the region and the main drawcard for the masses of Argentinian holidaymakers making their annual pilgrimage. For us though, it was too crowded and the roads too busy for cycling. We quickly headed on to Villa Angostura, a quaint little town of stone and wood chalets, chocolate, ice cream and souvenir shops. It was kind of like the “Noosa of the Sunshine Coast”, for those that know what I am talking about. San Martin was similar but squarely aimed at the top end tourists and not smelly cyclists that havn’t showered in 3 days! Junin is the place to trout fishing. We didn’t fish – but did enjoy camping by the many beautiful rivers around there. Coming over Mamuil Malal, our highest pass so far, we were treated too fantastic views of both volcans Lanin and Villarica. Speaking of which we’re booked to climb Villarica tomorrow… any tips on how to use an ice pick??

From here we put our heads down and pedal the 800km or so toward Santiago. We have decided to skip the capital, instead looping around via the coast for a few well deserved days at the beach. That should gives our legs the rest they need to tackle Mendoza and Northern Argentina.

We’re making great progress and now feel Lima in Peru is looking like a more realistic final destination than Lake Titicaca. But we’re not getting too excited, as there are still many unknowns ahead – proper mountains, high altitudes, dry deserts, salt pans and plenty of upset tummies in Bolivia (or so we’ve been told!).

We’re eating well, getting lots of exercise and most importantly enjoying ourselves – a real kind of adventure cyclists kind of groove I suppose. Day by day we are clocking up the kms too. People are now quite impressed when we say we’ve cycled all the way from Ushuaia! But we don’t need them to tell us… we’re pretty proud ourselves just quietly.

Thanks again for all your comments and support. While it hard to reply to all, rest assured they are getting read and providing that extra boost at the end of a long day in the saddle! Adios amigos.
Jules & Jess

What a view!

What a view!

Touristy but a nice change

Touristy but a nice change

Friendly locals

Friendly locals

Mate time

Mate time

A perfect riverside campsite

A perfect riverside campsite

And a not so perfect campsite

And a not so perfect campsite

If only there was something to look at??

If only there was something to look at??

Very pleased with ourselves

Very pleased with ourselves

Life on the road

COYHAIQUE to EL BOLSON

It sure is good being back in civilization again! Supermarkets, bakeries, ice cream shops – they are everywhere and we are making the most of it.  Two scoops please…

We’ve now left rural Chile behind and are heading for Bariloche and the lakes region of Argentina.  We had a great journey along the Careterra Austral. The views were amazing, the wild camping was fantastic and the roads, well … they’re probably best just forgotten.

What we won’t forget is our New Year’s Eve experience in Coyhaique. The Carettera’s capital literally shut down at 11pm. The band in the main street packed up, restaurants closed and it was only Jess and I and a few stray dogs wandering the street at midnight. A very bizarre experience, especially as the town was a buzz just a few hours before. Where did the people go??

Neither will we forget the Chilean hospitality shown to us in Villa St Lucia. On a cold wet evening, we were taken in, fed and given a warm bed by our host with the most Mr Manuel. He was definitely our hero that evening… and despite limited Spanish, I think we made his night a little more interesting too.

Okay, okay – so these snippets are great, but what is life really like on the road?  How much do you ride? Where do you sleep? What do eat? I thought we would give you a snapshot to show its not all roses…

A typical day … We wake around 6ish, pack up and have some cereal and oats. There is no time for coffee. On the road by 8, we ride in blocks of 2 1/2hrs then have a short break. We’re eating all the time – ham, cheese, egg rolls etc, fruit, cordial and of course lots of chocolate! We do this till about 7 or 8, which means we can cover anywhere between 70-120km depending on the wind, road condition etc. We then start thinking about somewhere to camp – out of sight, close to water, flat ground with hopefully the morning sun. We are pretty efficient at setting up now and within an hour we are done and eating dinner. We try for fresh meat and vegies where possible, but if not then its tinned tuna, lentils, pasta and rice etc. Boring but we never go hungry. There is then a little time for a quick wash, updating of diaries etc before bed. This is our life on the road… pretty simple, never boring and very enjoyable!

Thanks again for all your interest and comments. Keep them coming, enjoy the latest pics below and stay tuned for the next update.

Jules & Jess

Its been a great journey along The Carretera

Its been a great journey along The Carretera

We´ll just forget about the roads

We´ll just forget about the roads

Mr Manuel, our host with the most

Mr Manuel, our host with the most

Warm and dry

Warm and dry

Back in civilisation...yum yum

Back in civilisation...yum yum